A rural ‘death spiral’

Jim Mylchreest

Rural New Zealand is keeping New Zealand afloat, yet the government continues to strip services away from rural heartland communities like Cambridge and Te Awamutu.

That’s a big concern for Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest who in a wide-ranging interview with The News has spoken of his frustration at the impact of centralisation decisions.

“We still can’t get drivers’ licence tests in Cambridge for example.

“We’ve offered to help pay for the services. I write to them, the minister, said we would make provisions in our (council) offices and they use all sorts of crazy excuses,” said Mylchreest.

Cambridge used to have practical driving services provided to them, but now must travel to Hamilton, Te Awamutu or Tokoroa.

Cambridge VTNZ stopped providing a restricted and full licence service in 2012 when Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said the roads were not complex enough and they could provide the service cheaper from Hamilton.

“The cost to a licence may be cheaper for them but they don’t take into account the user costs…. the parents taking a day off work to take their children to Tokoroa or Hamilton.

“It’s a nonsense. The best way to learn is to practice and get basic competence in the area you live and get tested there,” he said.

Policing is another one which Mylchreest struggles with but has come to accept.

There is no longer 24/7 presence at Cambridge Police Station.

Police have told Mylchreest they can best serve the community by having police around the region.

“They say they can get resources to the problem more than they used to be able to when you’re relying on someone sitting in the police station. And I get that.”

He said he was still concerned at the increase in crimes such as ram raids on local businesses and would continue to advocate strongly.

“It’s just another example. We keep gutting communities of government departments, banks and maternity hospitals. Now the high schools can’t attract teachers, because anyone who’s got any money send their kids away. The schools can’t offer the course and it’s become a death spiral.

“New Zealand has had to subsidise some of those rural areas but now it is rural New Zealand keeping us afloat, yet the services are not there anymore.”

Mylchreest, who last week announced he was seeking another term as mayor, said centralisation of services could leave some people in Waipā communities with no employment options.

“Then you can just see wasted lives, they get into trouble, they drive without licences and then …. what a waste.”

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